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South Carolina woman killed in apparent alligator attack while walking her dog, police say

By Rebekah Riess and Dianne Gallagher, CNN

(CNN) — A 69-year-old South Carolina woman was killed in an apparent alligator attack while walking her dog near a golf course on Hilton Head Island, police said Tuesday.

Authorities responded to a report of a possible alligator attack in the Spanish Wells neighborhood of Hilton Head Island and found the woman’s body at around 9:30 a.m. at the edge of a lagoon bordering a golf course, the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.

The victim, who has not yet been identified, was a resident of the neighborhood, the sheriff’s office said. An autopsy will be conducted by the Beaufort County Coroner’s Office, the release said.

“Rescue efforts were made and an alligator appeared and was guarding the woman, interrupting emergency efforts,” the release added.

Eventually, the alligator was safely removed from the area and first responders were able to recover the woman’s body, the sheriff’s office said.

The attack marks the second fatal alligator attack in the county in less than a year, according to the sheriff’s office. In August 2022, an 88-year-old woman was killed by an alligator after she slipped into a pond while gardening in Sun City Hilton Head, an adult living community in the county, CNN previously reported.

There are an estimated 5 million American alligators in the wild across 10 states in the Southeast and beyond – even in the southeastern tip of Oklahoma, CNN reported. But fatal gator attacks are rare.

Florida, which has one of the highest alligator populations in the United States at over 1 million, had an average of six unprovoked bite incidents each year between 1948 and 2021, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conversation Commission. Of those 442 cases, 26 resulted in human deaths.

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CNN’s Emma Tucker contributed to this report.

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